Local officials and real estate agents see potential a for central city building project on a scale rarely possible with the 105-acre former site of Baylor University’s Floyd Casey Stadium.

A three-month window to submit development proposals for the city-owned site opened this week, and the property’s potential is hard to measure, Assistant City Manager Bradley Ford said. The space has been empty since the city acquired it in a land swap with Baylor University in 2016. The city also owns the adjacent Hart-Patterson Track and Field complex.

“When a city owns that large of a piece of property in the core, value has to be defined more broadly than a traditional real estate value,” Ford said. “Really, the value in that property is our ability to impact quality development on a larger scale in the core. It’s a unique piece of property.”

The city is asking interested developers to submit proposals that include housing, space for retail and pedestrian connections to existing trails near the site, allowing routes separated from roads for people to walk or bike to different parts of the city. According to the McLennan County Appraisal District, the total market value of all three tracts of land that make up the property is just under $4 million.

“The ideal situation here is that this location here would kind of be a microcosm of the city as a whole, encompassing what the visions have been for redevelopment within the city” said Chris Gutierrez, with Texas Commercial and Industrial Real Estate. “You know, you don’t always get the opportunity to do something like this.”

The city’s request for proposals form for developers calls for plans that square with Waco’s comprehensive plan, emphasize housing and include pedestrian connections to existing trails. The land would be rezoned as a planned unit development allowing mixed uses.

“The good news is that the city is leaving this as a pretty clean slate,” Gutierrez said.

He said cities typically develop outward from the city center, with new development in the outlying areas. As cities grow, people are often forced to live farther and farther from work, increasing traffic, commute times, pollution and transportation costs.

“It’s really kind of exciting,” Gutierrez said. “You have such a big canvas to play with and there’s so much positive development happening around it that you know this is the right time to do this.”

Waco’s master plan includes tentative plans to connect the Floyd Casey site with downtown through Mary Avenue, creating a continual pedestrian and bike path through the center of the city that would link to Bell’s Hill Park and Cotton Palace Park along the way, potentially by following Waco Creek.

City Center Waco Director Megan Henderson said a proposed bus rapid transit system crossing town on Franklin Avenue could also link to the site, making the area even more connected.

“This is the kind of interconnected center-city neighborhood investment that makes so much sense,” Henderson said. “Existing neighborhoods and businesses will be strengthened by the new development coming in their midst.”

She said new development, including new retail options, improved transportation infrastructure and new or enhanced park space, would benefit the surrounding established neighborhoods.

“I could see it being a great anchor for that neighborhood,” Henderson said.

Jim Peevey, of Reid Peevey Commercial Real Estate, said the Floyd Casey site has been on his radar for some time. When H-E-B hired him to sell a former store building near the site, the uncertainty of Floyd Casey’s fate came up time and time again.

“Every time we marketed the property, they showed interest,” Peevey said. “We were trying to get a Dave & Buster’s or a bowling alley, that kind of concept, but everyone was really concerned about (Floyd Casey).”

He said while he is glad to see the city emphasizing its request for housing, it needs to be affordable to offset Waco’s low home ownership rate. The United States Census Bureau lists Waco’s owner-occupied housing unit rate at 45%, a number Peevey said is too low compared to the United States average of 64%.

“There’s going to be homes built,” Peevey said. “You have to make sure that people can afford them. Waco is changing pace a lot, and people need affordable homes. You don’t just find 105 acres in a city anymore.”

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